The Fox in the Attic (New York Review Books Classics)
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A tale of enormous suspense and growing horror, The Fox in the Attic is the widely acclaimed first part of Richard Hughes's monumental historical fiction, "The Human Predicament." Set in the early 1920s, the book centers on Augustine, a young man from an aristocratic Welsh family who has come of age in the aftermath of World War I. Unjustly suspected of having had a hand in the murder of a young girl, Augustine takes refuge in the remote castle of Bavarian relatives. There his hopeless love for his devout cousin Mitzi blinds him to the hate that will lead to the rise of German fascism. The book reaches a climax with a brilliant description of the Munich putsch and a disturbingly intimate portrait of Adolph Hitler.
The Fox in the Attic, like its no less remarkable sequel The Wooden Shepherdess, offers a richly detailed, Tolstoyan overview of the modern world in upheaval. At once a novel of ideas and an exploration of the dark spaces of the heart, it is a book in which the past returns in all its original uncertainty and strangeness.
beginning to slide past like a procession starting off. So he chose that passing girl opposite for an experiment: fixed his eyes resolutely on her and with a big effort willed her to a halt. That crystal and yet unfathomable face of hers was like a still pool ... Augustine found himself acutely wishing his eyes could pierce its baffling surface, could discern the silent thoughts that must all this while be gliding to and fro in the lucid maiden mind beneath, like little fish ... but no, not the
in Germany, where they had cousins. That must have been 1913: she was to have gone again, only next year the Kaiser invaded Belgium and the war came). In addition to improper pictures, many of the lesser family portraits were hung here in this billiardroom—“lesser” in the sense that either the sitter or the painter was better forgotten: black sheep and frail ladies; and the pseudo-Lely, the Academy rejects. But as soon as Augustine’s father had married a Liberal, even the lovely drawing Rossetti
only fills his mouth with cream puffs. It isn’t just that in the company of his betters he can’t converse himself—he aims to be a kind of social upas, to kill conversation anywhere within reach of his shadow. Soon the whole room is silent. That’s what he’s waiting for: he stuffs the last cream puff half-eaten into his pocket and begins to orate. Usually it’s against the Jews: sometimes it’s the Bolshevik Menace: sometimes it’s the November Criminals—no matter, it’s always the same kind of speech,
not come yet? Hitler had forgotten by now it could do no good if it did come: he had sent for it and so it MUST come. Dusk again, and the baby at last safe in bed. Presently a car did come but still this wasn’t from the Bechsteins: it was only the two medicos from Munich (so once more two angels wrestled with their wretched Jacob, and once more in vain). Finally the doctor swathed Hitler as he was in bandages like swaddling-bands, and the car took them both off again (for good, this time). Thus
more than one arm’s-length ahead every time. Then her ears told her she had got there at last! The slow, clear tick of the clock ... a feeling of space all around her, the breath of a draft again Mitzi stood still and listened. Though clear and sharp it was still far above her, the tick ... tock ... of that clock. From far above, too, came the sizzle of water that trickled into the tank in the roof through a half-frozen ball-cock. And the squeaking of bats. From here on, the stairs were a